Fiona Doyle

Tom Crean Antarctic Explorer at Waterloo East Theatre

It is difficult to understand how the trials and tribulations of Irish explorer Tom Crean went unnoticed. Perhaps his mistake lay in not keeping a diary like Scott. And Shackleton.

But Crean served with both these men and went to Antarctica not twice (like Scott) but three times.

Aidan Dooley's well-toured and lauded one-man show throws some light on this forgotten hero. Standing under a large sledge and surrounded by bits of canvas and rope, Dooley has a natural ability to tell a good yarn.

While the staging is simple, the story is compelling and the journey he takes us on is truly remarkable. He actively engages with his audience and his endearing presence soon captures the imagination.

He recounts all three of Crean's expeditions from Captain Scott's 'Discovery,' the doomed 'Terra Nova' (incidentally the house name of Tom Crean's daughter, still living in County Kerry today) and 'Endurance,' Shackleton's final attempt to cross Antarctica.

And the anecdotes are thrilling: Crean's solo walk across the largest ice shelf of Antarctica to save the life of Scott's second-in-command; Crean's discovery of the body of Captain Scott, his face torn open by frostbite; and the explorer's third visit to Antarctica, where he was one of a party of three which made the first land crossing of South Georgia in order to save the lives of 22 men. And save them he did. He even received the Albert Medal for bravery on his return.

This show is a passionate tribute to a quiet and unassuming Kerryman as well as a carefully researched account of a distinguished career. Dooley's script is full of energy and humour but his wit never undermines the historical figure.

The actor is careful to balance his humorous approach with the tremendous challenges and hardships often faced by Crean and his counterparts in what Crean himself referred to as 'the last place on earth.' All in all, the story of Tom Crean is certainly a story worth dusting off and telling. And Dooley tells it very well indeed at Waterloo East Theatre.

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